Agriculture (Fertilisers)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1957.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Champion Mr Arthur Champion , Derbyshire South East 12:00 am, 6th June 1957

We welcome this annual Order, which the Minister has formally presented to the House. I can understand why he has done it formally, because every year the Order receives a welcome from hon. Members on this side of the House and from hon. Gentlemen opposite. However, this year there are considerable alterations and I think that the Minister might have told us something about them.

The rate of subsidy for sulphate of ammonia is up by 30 per cent., and that in a single year. I wonder why that is so and why nitrate of chalk has gone up 35 per cent. over the same period. Is this due purely to an alteration in world or British prices, or is it as a result of the decision of the Minister to try to stimulate further the use of these fertilisers? As for the rest, so far as I can see the prices remain the same as last year, or at least the subsidies remain as they were in the 1956 Order.

Is the Minister satisfied that the prices being charged, which to some extent of course he is subsidising, are not pushed up unduly as a result of the operations of great trusts? I am not sure to what extent such operations are carried out. I fear, however, that rings, or perhaps "trusts" is the better word, are operating to push up prices and, to some extent, dip their hands into the taxpayers' pockets because the subsidy goes up every time the price goes up and the taxpayer has to pay. I am not sure about these things, but I believe that it is the job of the Minister to be certain when he is bringing an Order of this nature to the House. He should make inquiries and inform hon. Members. I regard these matters as very important, bearing in mind the amount which, as the Minister said today, this subsidy is costing and the difference between the amount this year and last year which, I believe, is represented by an increase of about £6 million. I believe that is the figure which the right hon. Gentleman gave me today, and it is an important increase. I therefore hope that the Minister will tell us and will satisfy me on the questions which I have now put to him.